30-year-old American Edward Snowden, a contract employee at the National Security Agency, is the whistleblower behind significant revelations that surfaced in June 2013 about the US government's top secret, extensive domestic surveillance programmes. Snowden flew to Hong Kong from Hawaii in May 2013, and supplied confidential US government documents to media outlets including the Guardian.
'Mission accomplished': Edward Snowden validated by response to NSA leaks
Whistle-blower says he is satisfied that the story of government surveillance has been told, sparking debate and even hints of reform in Washington and the world
National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden said his “mission is already accomplished” after revealing NSA secrets that have caused a reassessment of US surveillance policies.
“I already won. As soon as the journalists were able to work, everything that I had been trying to do was validated,” Snowden told The Washington Post in an interview published online on Monday night.
“Because, remember, I didn’t want to change society. I wanted to give society a chance to determine if it should change itself.”
Snowden told that he was satisfied because journalists have been able to tell the story of the government’s collection of bulk internet and phone records, an activity that has grown dramatically in the decade since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
President Barack Obama hinted on Friday that he would consider some changes to NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records to address the public’s concerns about privacy.
His comments came during a week in which a federal judge declared the NSA’s collection programme probably was unconstitutional. A presidential advisory panel has suggested 46 changes to NSA operations.
Snowden was interviewed in Moscow over two days by Post reporter Barton Gellman, who has received numerous leaks from the former NSA contractor. The interview was conducted six months after Snowden’s revelations first appeared in the Post and Britain’s The Guardian newspaper.
Gellman described Snowden as relaxed and animated over two days of nearly unbroken conversation, fuelled by burgers, pasta, ice cream and Russian pastry.
Snowden, now 30, said he was not being disloyal to the United States or to his former employer.
“I am not trying to bring down the NSA, I am working to improve the NSA,” he said. “I am still working for the NSA right now. They are the only ones who don’t realise it.”
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the Snowden interview.
Asked about the Snowden interview, White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said: "Mr. Snowden faces felony charges here in the United States and should be returned to the US as soon as possible, where he will be afforded due process and all the protections of our criminal justice system.”
In June, the Justice Department unsealed a criminal complaint charging Snowden with espionage and felony theft of government property. Russia granted him temporary asylum five months ago.
The effects of Snowden’s revelations have been evident in the courts, Congress, Silicon Valley and capitals around the world, where even US allies have reacted angrily to reports of US monitoring of their leaders’ cellphone calls.
Brazil and members of the European Union are considering ways to better protect their data and US technology companies such as Google, Microsoft and Yahoo are looking at ways to block the collection of data by the government.
Snowden is believed to have downloaded many thousands of classified NSA and British government documents.
He has said in previous interviews that one of his main aims was to push for greater transparency from governments. He also wanted to expose the risks of surveillance programmes, where authorities secretly gather information on persons of interest, other governments and its own citizens.
With additional reporting from Reuters and AFP
Watch: An excerpt of Snowden's Christmas message on British TV